The Scoop on the Hoop
8th June 2018
When taking up your needle and thread, there is a handy saying to keep in mind: Pay Attention to the Tension! This applies to both the tension of your stitches, and the tension applied to your ground fabric. This week we’re taking a look at the humble embroidery hoop, and the role it plays in bringing a bit of tension to stitching!
Put simply an embroidery hoop, or frame, is a tensioning device.
Purpose of a Hoop
Its role is to hold the fabric firmly while the stitches are being worked, enabling the embroiderer to use the taut fabric to tension the stitches properly and avoid unsightly puckering.
To Hoop or Not to Hoop
Embroidery hoops are best used when working with stitches that use the ‘stab’ method, that is when each stitch is made using two movements; taking the needle to the back of the fabric, pulling it through, and then returning to the front.
In comparison ‘sewn’ stitches are worked in one movement; the needle goes to the back of the fabric and then returns to the front in one action. This technique is also known as ‘skimming’ or ‘scooping’ and for stitches like chain, stem, back and running stitch, is a fast and effective way of working. However, when working with ‘sewn’ stitches, the use of a hoop is not advisable as the surface tension of the fabric will be compromised to enable the needle to pass in and out easily.
Hoops are most commonly available in wood and plastic and the quality varies depending on the materials used and the skill of the manufacturer.
A checklist when shopping for a quality hoop includes laminated timber that is well finished to ensure you don’t encounter splinters. Brass fittings are also preferred as they are much stronger than white metal as the brass does not bend when the hoop is tightened and is key to maintaining a high level of tension.
You should also ensure your hoop has a slot in the end of the tightening screw to allow fastening with a screwdriver to give you a drum tight surface to work on.
Optimising Your Hoop
Like most tools, you’ll get the best results from a hoop when used correctly. For example, if you find yourself tensioning your work using your finger because the hoop has become slack, something has gone wrong!
Take the time to put the fabric in the hoop carefully; tightening both the hoop and the fabric gradually until you have a firm, even surface. Ensure the weave of the fabric remains true as any distortions will become very obvious when the hoop is removed. Only pull the straight grain of the fabric, not the bias as it will stretch and distort the grain. Once the fabric is taut, use a screwdriver to tighten the clasp as much as you can so the fabric is held firmly.
Interested in Learning More?
The above article is an excerpt from the book A-Z of Embroidery Stitches 2 published by Search Press, which features a ‘Getting Started’ guide to needlework including needle charts, introduction to threads, detailed information about hoops plus step-by-step guides to over 145 different stitches. Printed copies are available to purchase from our website.